Latrobe gets lift from freshmen wrestlers

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020 | 9:23 PM


Latrobe wrestling coach Mike Ciotti wasn’t surprised his team was leading the 67th annual Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association tournament after first day of action.

And while the Wildcats weren’t able to secure their 13th team title, Latrobe let teams from the county know it’s making a comeback.

Latrobe (2-1, 1-1) hasn’t reached the WPIAL team tournament since 2016, but a win against Greensburg Salem on Wednesday at home would clinch a spot the section tournament.

The Wildcats opened some eyes Dec. 18 when they were edged by Hempfield, 38-33.

At the county tournament, the Wildcats were missing their top wrestler — Gabe Willochell — who was sidelined with a shoulder strain. Ciotti expects him back for the Greensburg Salem match.

“I’m not shocked,” Ciotti said. “We’ve been having a pretty good season. It’s nice to see our hard work in the practice room pay off.”

Latrobe has won two tournaments this season — the Hickory Invitational and the 35th Max Horz Border Wars Invitational in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

The Wildcats finished fourth at the county tournament with 178 points. They finished with 11 placewinners and had two finalists – freshmen Vincent Kilkeary (106 pounds) and Nate Roth (120).

Roth pinned Kiski Area’s Dom Giordano to claim a county title, while Kilkeary dropped a 13-4 decision Hempfield sophomore Briar Priest.

The freshmen have played a big part of the Wildcats’ success.

Kilkeary (13-4) won titles at Hickory and Max Horz and placed eighth at Powerade.

Roth now has won three titles, adding the county championship to his Hickory and Max Horz titles. He went 3-2 at the Powerade tournament, losing in the consolation semifinals.

“Winning the county tournament was awesome, especially getting the pinfall,” Roth said. “It was also nice to defeat a kid from Kiski. They have a great program.”

Wrestling in front of large crowds is nothing new for Roth and Kilkeary. Both had Junior Olympic success and have been in big matches before.

“We’re just going out and having fun,” Kilkeary said. “”We’re used to competing at a high level. This is something we’ve trained for.”

The smallish Kilkeary had trouble with the lanky Priest in the 106-pound county finals.

Roth controlled his match against Giordano, winning by fall in the second period.

Another freshman, Corey Boerio, is having a good season. He placed third at the county tournament and is 18-5. He defeated Southmoreland’s Al Govern in the third-place match.

The other placewinners were Conner Johnson (132, fifth), Jack Pletcher (152, sixth), Jacob Brisky (182, fifth), Logan Zitterbart (170, fifth), Micah Piper (182, sixth), Payton Henry (138, sixth), Ricky Armstrong (145, fourth) and Tyler Ross (220, fourth).

The Wildcats start five seniors, six sophomores and three freshmen.

“I thought the entire team wrestled well,” Ciotti said. “It was a good tournament to get us ready for the rest of the season.”

That starts against Greensburg Salem on Wednesday and Gateway on Thursday. They conclude WPIAL Class AAA Section 1-B action Jan. 15 against Penn Hills.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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